Council has a lot of issues to deal with, such as the budget, climate change and many bylaws to update. But it seems that the pressure is on, from different organizations, to deal with animal control issues, such as chickens, bees and dogs. So the controversial issue of dogs in the downtown core has jumped back onto the council table.
We have a notice of motion put forward to allow dogs back into the downtown core. It is interesting to note that it was the downtown business association, years ago, who petitioned the city council of the day, to ban dogs from Baker and Vernon streets because of the many problems caused by dogs, along with the lack of responsibility of their owners.
Now the current downtown business association believes times have changed. I lived here when there were dogs allowed in the downtown core and it was a mess. From dogs fighting, tied to parking meters, and of course doggy “deposits” all around town. I can see no evidence that some dog owners attitudes have changed; dogs are taken into “no dog zones” such as Rotary Lakeside Park and beach, with most dogs not even on leashes; to dogs running loose around Lakeside playing fields, on John’s Walk and in Uphill. Not to mention, the mess of dog “deposits” around town, especially on the “dog walk” beside the Nelson airport. Good thing the airport dog walk got flushed out with all the flooding last spring.
If the motion passes to allow dogs downtown, my main concern is health and safety. The health issue from dog feces on sidewalks, as well as dogs peeing on everything, including sign boards, lamp posts, corners of buildings, car wheels, etc. There are also safety concerns.
Many people think of tourist dogs as small and cuddly, but what about dog breeds such as rottweiler, pitbulls and dobermans along with other large dogs brought into the downtown core. What if someone is bit, especially a child, who is responsible: the owner and/or City Hall? Baker Street sidewalks are narrow, so is it desirable to have the return of dogs to Baker Street and have citizens, seniors and young children exposed again to health and safety risks?
The downtown business association speculates there will be more business from tourists by allowing dogs back in the Baker Street area, but could it also send more local people and tourists to the Chahko Mika Mall where they can shop in a dry, cool, smoke free and dog free environment.
Having dogs on Baker Street is not the solution to improve the business in the downtown core. The problems — why there are not more purchases in the downtown core — are complex. With the downturn in the economy, the lack of street parking and no large motorhome parking near Nelson, along with cross-border shopping, travelling to Kelowna and purchasing items through the internet are the main issues.
Getting a few more tourists with their dog Fluffy to shop in downtown Nelson is not the magic bullet that will boost the local economy. The solution is to carry on with proper marketing of Nelson, and increase the cleaning and restoring of the buildings and awnings in the downtown core.
Instead of the focus dog control, council and staff must continue with preparing the city for climate change, by directing funds for increased flood and fire protection.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares this Wednesday space with his colleagues at the table.